USTA: $1.1 trillion lost in U.S. travel economic output in 2020

Hundreds of industry leaders from across the country are meeting virtually today with members of Congress for Destination Capitol Hill, the U.S. Travel Association’s annual legislative fly-in. Photo credit: Getty Images (Congress at night)

Travel’s economic footprint in the United States shrank 42 percent last year from $2.6 trillion to $1.5 trillion, according to new end-of-year totals prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by the research firm Tourism Economics.

Travel and tourism had supported employment for 11 percent of the U.S. workforce prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with direct travel jobs accounting for 6 percent of the workforce. Over the course of the year, travel-supported jobs declined 5.6 million in 2020 (16.7 million to 11.1 million). Direct travel jobs accounted for a disproportionate 35 percent of jobs lost, and total travel-supported jobs accounting for 65 percent of all American jobs lost to the economic fallout of the pandemic, according to the survey. 

Lobbying for Support

The new data on travel’s losses arrives as hundreds of industry leaders from across the country meet virtually today with members of Congress for Destination Capitol Hill, the U.S. Travel Association’s annual legislative fly-in.

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“While the gradual progress of vaccinations has provided hope that a turnaround may be on the horizon, it is still unclear when travel demand will be able to fully rebound on its own,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president and CEO. “With the travel industry suffering such a disproportionate share of losses, policymakers need to understand that a nationwide economic recovery effectively hinges on a travel recovery.”

On Wednesday, nearly 300 virtual meetings between industry leaders and members of Congress will focus on measures to:

  • Provide relief for travel industry businesses
  • Advance stimulus measures to drive travel demand
  • Position the U.S. to welcome back international travel
  • Safely restore business travel, meetings and events

These policy priorities follow a year of intense efforts to secure crucial emergency relief for all sectors of travel—without which many of the sector’s job losses may become permanent.

“The latest round of relief was helpful to our industry, but there are a number of important steps that still must be taken, especially extending the deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program and passing the key package of tax incentives in the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the USTA's EVP of public affairs and policy. “The PPP is set to expire in just two weeks, yet the economic effects of the pandemic will continue to harm the industry far beyond that point.”

Supported Bills

Last week, the association voiced strong support for the PPP Extension Act of 2021, a bipartisan and bicameral bill that would implement the Paycheck Protection Program extension U.S. Travel has pushed for as an essential part of economic relief. The bill would push the deadline for PPP fund applications to May 31 from its current March 31, with an additional 30 days past the new deadline for the Small Business Administration to process applications.

The Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2021, meanwhile, would provide stimulus needed to help bring back the millions of travel jobs lost to the pandemic. Specifically, the bill provides:

  • A temporary business tax credit to revitalize business meetings, conferences, and other structured events.
  • A temporarily restored entertainment business expense deduction to help entertainment venues and performing arts centers recover.
  • An individual tax credit to stimulate nonbusiness travel.
  • Tax relief for restaurants and food and beverage companies to help restore food service jobs and strengthen the entire American food supply chain.